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The Independent on Sunday carried an article with the title “Electronic smog linked to respiratory disease, study shows”, by Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor.

So wifi is bad for you after all?

As usual the reference is not given, But if you look at the original paper (download it here), guess what? It bears little resemblance to the newspaper report.

  • No measurements whatsoever are make of effects on health
  • The results have nothing to do with wifi or cellphones
  • Measurements were made of small air ion concentrations, electrostatic potential and AC electric field strengths
  • The measurements were made in a computer work-suite room in Bergen (Norway)

The suggested effects on health are entirely speculative. No health effects were measured. Thar is not what you’d infer from the title of the article, and neither is it stated in the article itself.

This is bad journalism, but it must be said that the bad reporting can be blamed in part, on misleading press releases from the advertising (oops, media) departments of universities themselves, Imperial College News site says

“Electrical fields generated by everyday electrical equipment such as computers, and excess static charge created by many modern materials, could be bad for your health, says new research published by Imperial scientists.”

Yes they could be bad for your health. But how about postponing the dramatic press release until we know whether they actually are bad for your health? This work casts no light whatsoever on that question.

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2 Responses to More bad reporting on electrosmog, and more bad university press releases

  • If you read thru the report it is replete with health warnings. It seems every other paragraph associates some kind of electronic discharge or field effect with some kind of harmful biological effect without actually testing for that effect. So it is easy to see why a newspaper looking to make a news story out of it created the headlines that it did.

  • I liked the reference to being concerned about what might happen in hospital. Aieee, Aieee, would I be more apprehensive about my loved ones picking up MRSA, C. Difficile or some bug in hospital or them encountering electrosmog because of the monitors. Hmm.

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